Academy Award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg starred as Guinan in Star Trek: The Next Generation in a recurring guest star role—the first of Star Trek's celebrity fans to win a spot on the show. She played the hyoer-sensed El-Aurian hostess of "Ten-Forward," the ship's bar/lounge, from Season 2 onward.
When she was a little girl, Goldberg was a big Star Trek fan, because in the 1960s roles for African-Americans on television were scarce and often inconsequential — with Star Trek being an exception. On the U.S.S. Enterprise, the presence of Uhura on the Bridge crew connected with the young Goldberg, and her lifelong love of Star Trek had begun. "Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on," Goldberg says. "I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, 'Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!' I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be."
Born in the Chelsea projects of Manhattan on Nov. 13, Goldberg was bitten by the acting bug at an early age, beginning as an eight-year-old in children's theatre, then appearing in bit parts in New York before moving to the West Coast. She lived in San Diego and San Francisco, practicing her acting talents onstage in plays such as Brecht's "Mother Courage" and also honing her comedic skills with improvisational work in a troupe called Spontaneous Combustion.
After moving to the Bay Area, Goldberg hooked up with Berkeley's The Blake Street Hawkeyes Theatre and eventually started working on her own solo work, starting with her show called "The Spook Show," which toured the country after a San Francisco run. Performing "The Spook Show" in New York, she was seen by director Mike Nichols who helped her mount her one-woman Broadway show in 1984, which was soon turned into an HBO special and a Grammy Award-winning recording.
Goldberg's status as a white-hot, talented performer only increased after Steven Spielberg cast her in his film adaptation of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," which netted Goldberg a Best Actress Golden Globe, an NAACP Image Award and an Oscar nomination.
From that point on, Goldberg was a household name, appearing on television and more feature films such as "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Sister Act," and "Girl, Interrupted" (co-starring with Winona Ryder, the new "Amanda Grayson"). Whoopi's performance as Oda Mae Brown in "Ghost" in 1990 earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Golden Globe Award, and the NAACP Image Award. She was also named the NAACP's "Entertainer of the Year" for 1990.
In 1986, her appearance on an episode of Moonlighting earned Goldberg an Emmy Award nomination as Best Guest Performer in a Dramatic Series. Her performance in the CBS Schoolbreak special, "My Past Is My Own," garnered Goldberg a Daytime Emmy Award nomination as Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special. Her appearance on A Different World earned her yet another Emmy nomination. Her television credits include Baghdad Cafe (in which she starred with Jean Stapleton), "Scared Straight: 10 Years Later," "Carol, Robin, Whoopi and Carl," "Funny, You Don't Look 200," Marlo Thomas' "Free To Be...A Family" and "Freedomfest—Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Special," which she co-hosted. Whoopi co-produced and appeared in "Hot Rod Brown," the first two "Tales from the Whoop" for Nickelodeon, for which she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award.
An Unlikely Stop
Being an A-list actor who could write her own ticket, she chose an unlikely stop on her itinerary in 1988 — an hour-long syndicated show called Star Trek: The Next Generation, joining the crew as Guinan, the mysterious El-Aurian bartender in Ten-Forward. She began playing the role in TNG's second season, and appeared through the sixth season and in "Star Trek Generations." Most recently she reprised the character in "Star Trek Nemesis," doing a cameo in the wedding scene as Riker and Troi took their vows.
Just Being Herself
While she initially made her career transforming herself into other characters, Goldberg's own quick wit and irrepressible personality have made her popular just being herself. She's also done her share of hosting, emceeing prestigious awards shows such as the Grammys in 1992 and the Academy Awards four times — in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002. She also appeared for four years in the center square on The Hollywood Squares, which she also produced, and had her own sitcom called Whoopi on NBC in 2003-04.
With her success, Goldberg has also devoted a great deal of her time and energy to charity and humanitarian causes, joining up with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams to create the HBO "Comic Relief" benefits which have raised millions to help the homeless, along with work for many other causes.
Though she's always a whirlwind of activity, Goldberg lately has pretty much settled in New York with two steady jobs. The first is her morning radio show Wake Up With Whoopi! where she talks politics and other daily topics. The drive-time program runs 5-9 a.m. on 103.5 FM in New York, and in several other markets including Las Vegas (93.1), Denver (95.7), and others around the country. Visit Whoopi.com to learn more.
And then in September 2007, Goldberg landed a choice gig: She became co-host of ABC's The View, joining Barbara Walters and other female celebrities in the daily talk show. Goldberg filled the role after the controversial Rosie O'Donnell left the show — not that Whoopi isn't controversial, but she is perhaps a bit more diplomatic in her debates than her predecessor. As an introduction in her first episode of The View, Goldberg prepared a video to provide a briefing on her background, and the audience applauded and cheered vigorously when she mentioned Guinan. "I love my Star Trek character," Goldberg said in that video, "because I think I'm the last character that Gene Roddenberry ever created." She also referred to Lt. Uhura and talked about how important she was to the perception of black people. "I want to be that person for the next generation." (Visit this ABC.com link for the latest videos from The View.)
In addition, Goldberg has been seen recently in Everybody Hates Chris, for which she earned an NAACP Image Award nomination in 2007, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and her voice was heard in the animated "Everyone's Hero" and "Doogal." Look for her soon in the movie "If I Had Known I Was a Genius." According to IMDB.com, she is the producer of an upcoming sci-fi short called "Stream," and also stars in it along with William Sadler ("Sloan"). She is reportedly attached to the 2009 animated fantasy "Alice Goes to Harlem," and is also producing a drama called "Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany," also targeted for 2009. In addition, as a producer she is creatively involved in Lifetime's Strong Medicine and Nickelodeon's new Just for Kicks, and is reportedly developing a new game show called Shop/Shop.
And if you visit Universal Studios Hollywood, be sure to take the famous tram ride through the Universal backlot, because Ms. Goldberg is the "virtual guide" of the Studio Tour in videotaped segments playing on screens in the trams.